The lifestyle we have grown accustomed to creates an abundance of waste in our world. I combat it by reclaiming items and materials on the verge of being discarded. I find value in chipping away at the excess created by throw-away culture. I find satisfaction in getting as much use out of something as possible. It makes me happy to find a new use for clothes or fabric, or to help make anything stay around longer.
Scattered Light Stitchery is my means to bring these items back. A beautiful craft on its own, it’s satisfying to use hand embroidery, and of course mending, as tools of revival. By embroidering previously owned goods I am giving them a chance to live on. By embroidering nearly discarded objects or patches out of leftover fabric, I am creating less waste. Through visible or invisible mending I am helping another piece of clothing survive a little longer.
These are small but impactful steps that can help us reexamine habits in all areas of our life. I believe every little step matters and truly helps reduce the impact we have on our environment. I started this project to remind the world that a lot of us share similar values. No one is alone in these endeavors; there is strength and motivation in numbers.
I am fortunate to have called many places home. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, went to college in Madison WI, spent some of my formative young adult years in the city of Chicago, and grew my career and our family in Los Angeles CA. For the past 20 years, Albuquerque has been a second home throughout all these changes. As of the beginning of 2020, right before the pandemic hit, my family and I now call it home. I live with my husband, daughter, son and our cat.
I spend most of my time parenting our two young children. When they are able to entertain themselves happily, I get a few moments to sew, stitch and mend. As a family we like to hike, garden and enjoy the outdoors together. If I have some time to myself I enjoy running, biking, visiting secondhand/thrift shops. I will never turn down a cup of coffee or a doughnut.
I love being near the mountains and under the huge blue New Mexican sky. New Mexico’s beauty reminds me to live a life that makes the least amount of impact on the environment. It’s motivation to think sustainably in all choices we make in how we live, and affirms the choices I make to develop sustainable business practices.
A not so brief history of my creative path
I began sewing when I was in high school. My mom taught me to sew on her heavy but trusty green Singer sewing machine. It was stored in a box that made it look more like a mini military tank than something to create clothes with. I can easily recall dragging it out of the front hallway closet to spend the night sewing away at the kitchen table. I haven’t stopped sewing since.
My mom also exposed me to embroidery for the first time when I was a kid. I remember her sitting in the corner of our couch cross stitching in her free time. I asked her to buy a kit for me once- it was a single rose in a bud vase. I’m not sure if I ever finished it, but it felt good to take my own “stab” at it while sitting next to my mom on the couch.
When I was growing up we would take family vacations to visit my Grandma in Florida. My Grandma lived through the Great Depression, and throughout the rest of her life she saved and collected things in order to use them later. This habit was evident in her craft supply collections- her closet was a treasure trove of buttons, fabric, beads and scraps of interesting paper. My favorite memory of these trips was going through her supplies with my sister and coming up with endless creations.
Many years back, my mother-in-law handed down to me two craft boxes full of embroidery thread. I didn’t embroider much at the time, but I loved the colors and the neatly organized bins. Some part of me wanted to make sure that all of it got put to good use. I still have a lot of that embroidery thread, and can tell hers apart from others because of the color codes written in her handwriting.
I have accumulated skills, experience and confidence over the years in a variety of arenas: fashion design school, an alterations department, a sewn paper stationery company, technical design/patternmaking/grading departments of various sized clothing companies, and continual personal exploration. I have met many wonderful people along the way who share a love of craft and creating things with their hands.
While I loved my time in these professional roles, something has steered me back to sewing and stitching with my hands. Hand stitching feels mindful, intimate and soothing to my soul. I’m not only helping these clothes and textiles live on, but also continuing a craft passed on through mostly women, mostly relatives, like a folktale.
Thanks for joining me in this journey!
Shawn Holtaway Keller